Macarthur Rams crowned 2022 NPL NSW Women’s Champions


It took a dramatic penalty shootout to determine the Champion for the 2022 #NPLWNSW competition as the Macarthur Rams defeated the Northern Tigers 6-5 on penalties after a 0-0 draw following 120 minutes of football at Valentine Sports Park. 

Morgan Aquino rightfully was handed the player of the game medal after an outstanding performance between the sticks for the Tigers, but it would not be enough as the Tigers fell once again to a penalty shootout in the grand final.

Despite immense pressure on the Tigers goal throughout the game, Stephen Peters’ side could not break the deadlock until the penalty shootout where Shamiran Khamis made the decisive save to bring the Championship to Lynwood Park.

The first half onslaught started from the Rams after only five minutes when Mel Caceres did well down the left by-line before cutting back for Leena Khamis who sent her effort over the bar from a good position.

The Rams went even closer shortly after, some fine build up play saw the ball fall to Laura Murtagh who volleyed goalward, only for Morgan Aquino to make a very good save.

From the resulting corner, Madison McComasky rose highest, her header going wide of the target.

McComasky was becoming a real target from corners, again getting up highest, this time not generating enough power to trouble Aquino.

The Tigers first shot on target came after some hard work from Shadeene Evans who pinched the ball from Izzy Foletta before shooting low into the arms of Sham Khamis.

Leena Khamis then went close with a header after a Patty Charalambous cross, but she could not find the target.

Macarthur continued the pressure and should have hit the front on 25 minutes, only for some desperate Tigers defending, making three straight blocks after shots from Gordon and Khamis.

On the half hour mark again Aquino was called into action. Murtagh met the ball at the far post and sent a rasping volley toward goal, only for the Tigers keeper to make a fantastic save.

Minutes later and again Aquino came out on top over Murtagh. Miku Sunaga played an excellent through ball for her winger, this time Aquino saving with her feet at the near post.

Aquino was playing like a girl possessed and foiled the Rams again in the 38th minute as Charalambous look destined to score, only for the Tigers shot stopper to make another excellent save.

The second half started with the Tigers coming out much better and almost taking the lead. Shadeene Evans let fly on the volley with her effort just going wide of the target.

Evans went close again after outmuscling McComasky, not finding the target for the second consecutive time.

With 30 minutes to go, Sunaga had the best chance of the game. A beautiful move by the Rams could not be finished by the Japanese import as once more Aquino pulled off a save from the top draw.

The Rams threatened again shortly after as McComasky volleyed well over the bar from an excellent position.

The Tigers looked set to score soon after as Evans broke through the defence, bearing down on Khamis before squaring the ball up allowing Charalambous to save the day.

With 10 minutes to go the Rams thought they were in front. Fine work by Khamis inside the box saw her clip the ball to the far post for Murtagh to volley toward goal, again, somehow Aquino kept it from crossing the line.

Unable to be separated and Aquino standing tall, the game moved into extra time.

As legs tired, the first chance in extra time came courtesy of Hannah McNulty, but her shot went just over the bar.

McNulty then went close again, dribbling through three defenders and getting into the box before her legs gave way on her, missing the ball at the final moment.

It was the Tigers best patch of the game but were unable to capitalise as the match moved into a shootout.

Alex Huynh stepped up first and sent Aquino the wrong way. This was followed by McNulty and Holly Williams before Shadeene Evans sprayed her penalty wide of the goal, the Tigers first to blink.

Veteran Kylie Ledbrook then stepped up but Aquino read the shot and the Tigers had the chance to go level again.

From there it seemed as though we’d go deep into the night as Izzy Gomez, Beth Gordon, Morgan Aquino, Madison McComasky, Maddie Bart and Leena Khamis all scored their penalties.

With the Rams in front 6-5 it was sudden death as Khamis saved from Abbey Green to secure the Championship for the Rams.

An emotional Stephen Peters was overwhelmed with everything that had taken place.

“How we don’t win that game in 90 minutes I don’t know,” Peters said.

“I thought we were brilliant from start to finish, the Tigers had a late flurry, I thought they had a better reaction after half time but the girls just got it inside (pounds heart) and the motivation was clear from the start.”

It was an extra special moment for two Rams legends as Kylie Ledbrook ended her playing career while long time club administrator Rob Laws also will be departing from his position.

“It’s something that has been a big burden for her and for us to be able to do that for her is massive,” the Championship winning coach said.

“Not only that but Rob Laws who basically runs our club is also retiring.”

For Jake Stephenson, his team showed great courage to stay in the game and take it all the way to penalties.

“We didn’t have greatest of first halves and grew into the game,” Stephenson said.

“We grew into the first half of extra time and could have went on to win it in the second half of extra time.”

Morgan Aquino was outstanding throughout the game, keeping the Tigers in with a chance, saving a penalty and even scoring one but it wouldn’t be enough.

“She’s incredible, real credit to her and showed everyone what a top-class keeper she is at this level, she even had the confidence to take and convert a penalty,” said Stephenson.

Match Stats  

Northern Tigers 0  

Macarthur Rams 0 

(Macarthur Rams win 6-5 after penalties) 

Sunday, 11 September, 2022

Valentine Sports Park, Glenwood

Northern Tigers: 1. Morgan Aquino, 2. Josie Wilson, 4. Abbey Green, 6. Isabel Gomez, 7. Hannah McNulty, 8. Maddie Bart, 9. Shadeene Evans, 10. Malia Steinmetz, 14. Beth Bernardi (5. Ariella Cabezas 90’), 18. Ashlee Brodigan, 19. Teal Kilbride.

Substitutes: 15. Sienna Fraser, 16. Tess Rickard, 17. Lily McMahon, 36. Sabine Montenegro, 41. Danielle Bartels.

Yellow Cards: Bart 43’, Gomez 53’, McNulty 89’

Red Cards: Nil

Macarthur Rams: 1. Sham Khamis, 9. Leena Khamis, 11. Patty Charalambous, 12. Laura Murtagh, 14. Miku Sunaga (10. Kylie Ledbrook 62’), 22 Alex Huynh, 25. Darcey Malone (7. Chloe Gordon 112’), 26. Mel Caceres (30. Danielle Bishop), 32. Bethany Gordon, 36. Isabella Foletta (2. Holly Williams 90’), 40. Madison McComasky.

Substitutes Not Used: 20. Chrystal Duggan, 41. Brianna Clarke.

Yellow Cards: Gordon 72’, Huynh 118’

Red Cards: Nil

-By NPL NSW Women’s Chief Writer and Commentator Nikola Pozder